Thursday, 15 September 2011

Refrigerator frustrations

You may remember from an earlier post how unimpressed I was with the amount of electricity Priscilla's fridge uses...8 kWh per day, the same amount our whole house in the city uses per day in the summer. We are thankful to have the option to switch the fridge from electric to gas operation. It's hard to determine how much the fridge consumes since it is not the only appliance using gas. We are at least able to confirm that on electricity the fridge costs us approximately $17.19 per month to run. Compare that to the $5.10 per month our full-sized fridge in the city costs us...not good!! On gas, so far, we were able to run the fridge, the stove top and the water heater for 2 months on a tank that we knew was close to empty. It costs $25 to fill a 30 lb propane tank. Even if that's all the info we gather it costs $12.50 per month to run the fridge, stove and water heater on gas versus $17.19 per month, just for the fridge, on hydro. And we know for a fact that a full 30 lb tank will supply the gas use of Priscilla for much longer than 2 months.

Our solar generator on wheels so it can follow the sun
Life is good. The sun finally decided to shine for more than a minute and we are able to run the whole trailer with our solar least during the day. We decided we would plug into the grid when the sun goes down to conserve our battery for those inevitable blackouts. The 1800 watt generator will only run for so long unless it is being continually charged by the sun. As soon as the sun is up, we resume our off grid status. When the sun is shining brightly the generator even handles the draw from the toaster or the electric kettle. Very cool.

And just like that, life is a little bit less than good for a moment. The fridge has defrosted itself because the pilot light had gone out some time earlier. We attempt several times to relight with no luck. Our only option is to cook everything that is in the freezer and plug into the grid. Yikes!! I think my blood pressure is matching the escalating numbers on the hydro meter. We are definitely not sticking to the agreement of reduce 3 kWh in the city to use 3kWh in the country. Also, we are completely unable to use the solar generator now since there is no way it can handle a constant draw of this size, even if the sun is shining. This is not making me a very happy camper. Ras is secretly happy though because she knows it's only a matter of time until we have a new, bigger fridge at Priscilla.

We try to be sensible about this situation and rationalize that it doesn't make sense to get the new fridge now since we have only a few more weeks before we close the place up for winter. The problem with the fridge is its lack of travel. These old trailer fridges work best when they are travelling, otherwise the fluids responsible for cooling don't flow through the system properly when the fridge is not perfectly level, resulting in no cooling. Apparently Priscilla must be sitting at a bit of a tilt. It stymies us both because every time we take out the level...things are level. Off to my trusty how to fix everything in a trailer websites. Have I mentioned how much we love our new internet tower? I find out we need to burp the fridge! That would be great if all that means is slapping the back of the fridge a few times. No, this means disconnect the ac, dc and propane connections, remove the fridge from its cubby hole and turn it upside down for 24 hours. Then turn the fridge right side up and let it sit for another 24 hours and then return it to its cubby hole and reconnect everything. This will get the fluids moving and everything should work again...but for how long? Until the next freezer load of food has to be cooked all at once, I guess.

Since burping the fridge seemed like a ridiculous waste of time, we headed into town to look at replacement fridges. It turns out there is this fantastic little Danby fridge at Costco that gives us almost 3 more cubic feet of interior space and only uses about 855 watts (0.85kWh) per day...almost one tenth what the current fridge uses per day. This will allow us to use the solar generator again during the day...and bring my blood pressure back down to normal.

We have decided to put the purchase of this little fridge on hold 'til spring. In the meantime, I'm still looking into that dehydrated food the astronauts eat.


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